The Complete Artist's Way: Creativity As A Spiritual Practice, a book written in 1992 by Julia Cameron, is a book that reflects on the life and practice of artists and provides a twelve-week guide that centers healing and cultivating one's inner artist and artistic practice. I found this book through recommendation on TikTok of all places. Having just graduated arts school in May and currently trying to navigate the daunting landscape of career-building and artistic life post-grad in the middle of a pandemic, I figured it would be worth a read. Each week, Cameron provides a central topic which she reflects on in a short chapter. At the end of each chapter, she assigns tasks to be completed each week as well as reflective writing, aimed at establishing healthy creative habits while unblocking past doubts, worries, and concerns. The book takes a highly spiritual approach, specifically a Christian one, but can be read to one's own beliefs. In the spirit of the new year, I am starting a new series on the blog following and sharing my own journey on this 12-week program. We are now on week two of the series. This week's theme is recovering a sense of identity.
This week is huge on trusting your sense of intuition and inner creative voice. The chapter begins by asking readers to identify their "self-attacks," or internal doubts and thought patterns that reinforce a negative sense of self. Readers are encouraged to find counters to these thoughts in order to start developing a greater sense of purpose. From there, the book explores the ways other people can reinforce a negative self-image - and how to set boundaries that protect the sense of identity from external stress. The book also warns of an interesting concept that it terms "crazymakers," or people who are highly successful, yet eccentric and tend to work in highly dysfunctional, narcissistic ways that damage the overall success of a project. The book says:
The crazymaking dynamic is grounded in power, and so any group of people can function as an energy system to be exploited and drained. Crazymakers can be found in almost any setting, in almost any art form. Fame may help to create them, but since they feed on power, any power source will do.
The book goes on to say that involving oneself with these so-called crazymakers can be a form of artistic self-destruction, a distraction as a way of avoiding one's own artistic potential. I found this concept really interesting, especially when considering the balance of relationships and support with personal fulfillment. If you have thoughts on this section, please respond in the comments!
The final parts of this chapter cover ideas of skepticism and attention. Skepticism is said to be countered through honesty with our own artistic desires, and attention is said to be directed and must exist in the present, not in daydreams of what could happen in the future.
This week's tasks focus on identifying where the time and attention is going in your life. The aim is to identify ways in which one's time is spent that are damaging to the inner artist and create small goals of change in order to instead support the daily act of creativity as well as long-term goals of creation. If you are following along, let me know in the comments what you found insightful from this week!